Building Better Brains with Mindfulness

Many years ago while going through my divorce, one of my sisters sent me an audio tape called Stress Relief in an effort to help me relieve my anxiety. I loved that tape. It was a guided visualization set on a beach with water and seagull sounds to authenticate the relaxation experience. I’ve searched high and low, and haven’t been able to find a copy of it after all of these years, yet, it will forever play in my heart.

When I share my enthusiasm about meditation and the benefits I feel as a result of my practice, people often tell me that they just can’t seem to sit long enough to quiet their minds. First of all, I think this is one of the ideas about meditation that needs to be debunked, as it is not possible to shut off our thoughts. We can certainly slow the mind down, however, meditation is more about mindfulness, than mindlessness. I now sit twice a day in meditation, in a practice that was built by learning to be comfortable with myself.

When I started to spend time in my own company it was excruciating to be alone with my unhealthy thoughts. It was a painful process. Incidentally, despite the pain, I always found the benefits to be stronger. I have had a few experiences that were profound, however, most of the time my practice is for the calm I feel, and sense of awareness afterward. In fact, it’s not just me that senses the difference, I have had others comment after spending long periods in meditation. “You look different,” they say, and I am different, something happens when you give yourself this gift.

The UCLA Neuro Imaging Lab has found that “People who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior.” (Luders 2009) In addition the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) over the past ten years has found mindful practices to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, increase attention, and lessen anxiety and depression. Mindful practices even thicken the brain areas used for making decisions.

Meditators have known for eons that something good is happening within as a result of this practice, and it is encouraging to see that science now supports this knowing. I encourage you to give meditation a try.  Put your heart and your health in your hands and begin a practice that can considerably change  the way you feel.

My Stress Relief still holds sentimental value for me. Fortunately, today there are many helpful tools to choose from. I hope you’ll take some time to listen to these archives from Holistic Children Radio and get to know some of my guests. I  encourage you to explore the many avenues available to you on your road to better health. There are so many tools to get you started and to maintain. For example, Marlise Karlin’s Simplicity of Stillness, Dr. Ronald Alexander’s mindful awareness books and CDs, and the very important relaxation stories and CDs for children and young adults by Lori Lite and Dr. Charlotte Reznick.

I’m not sure if my sister had any idea at the time how that little tape would make such a huge difference in my life, and in my health. It is with a loving heart that the gift lives on…

© 2011 Cathi Curen, Holistic Children Radio

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One comment

  1. […] more encouraging, is that there is evidence to support the mind’s influence on our bodies. Meditation, social support, and our spiritual practices all have a positive effect on health outcomes and […]

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